Check Against Delivery
I would like to thank our esteemed guests, Mr Levy and Professor Shikaki, for sharing with us their observations and assessments. Their research into the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and their thorough knowledge of public opinion remind us that both sides strive for a life with dignity and security.
The COVID-19 crisis is significantly affecting the lives of both Israelis and Palestinians. Be assured that we stand by your side. We are convinced that particularly now, in this time of crisis, we need more willingness to cooperate from both sides, not less.
Our briefers have cited voices that call into question whether we can still speak of a peace process twenty-six years after Oslo. Yet, their presentations underscore that the negotiated two-state solution remains the only viable solution to the conflict – and it still enjoys public support. It meets Israeli and Palestinian security needs, fulfils legitimate Palestinian aspirations for statehood, ends the occupation, resolves all permanent status issues, and guarantees equal rights for all inhabitants based on international law and the relevant UN resolutions.
It is true that we keep repeating this message. We reiterate it because it reflects our strong conviction and firm commitment to the rules-based international order, to the security of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, and to the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and statehood. We reiterate it because it remains the only viable, if not the best, framework for a truly negotiated solution.
We are alarmed by the stated intention of the Israeli government to annex parts of the occupied West Bank. If implemented, this would constitute a violation of international law, including the UN Charter and Security Council resolutions, irrespective of the size of the territory affected and the terminology used.
Annexation would severely undermine, if not render impossible, the resumption of direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. Instead, it would bring them closer to a one-state reality.
Annexation would also have fundamentally negative implications for regional security and stability.
While the European Union wishes to intensify and deepen its cooperation with Israel, annexation would have consequences for the close relationship between Israel and the European Union and its Member States. This would probably also have implications for the prospect of further normalization and deepening of Israel’s relations with Arab states – a positive process which we very much welcome.
Since his visit to Israel and Jordan in June, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has continued his diplomatic engagement to strongly advise against the implementation of any unilateral measures; he did this most recently in a video conference with the Foreign Ministers of Egypt, France and Jordan, in the so-called “Munich format”. We believe that exchange between European and Arab states on regional security matters is crucial. Promising proposals have already been made, also in connection with the Arab Peace Initiative, on which we can build. Together, we seek to re-establish a constructive agenda and engagement between the parties.
This requires, first, a resumption of direct and meaningful negotiations between the parties. For this to happen, we would need flexibility and openness on all sides. We believe that reactivating the Middle East Quartet would be the best format option to discuss the way forward. We reiterate our full support for the efforts of Special Coordinator Mr. Mladenov.
Second, we call upon Israel to end the expansion of settlements, also in critical areas around Jerusalem, the confiscation of Palestinian land, and the demolition and seizure of Palestinian-owned structures – which often leaves families homeless in harsh times.
Third, both sides need to fully implement Resolution 2334, with regard to settlement activities as well as all acts of violence against civilians, including acts of terrorism, incitement and inflammatory rhetoric. Germany condemns all attacks on and threats from Hamas and other terrorist groups against Israel.
Fourth, intra-Palestinian reconciliation, reuniting Gaza and the occupied West Bank under a single government, renewing the democratic legitimacy of Palestinian institutions, and strengthening governance and responsiveness to the needs of the Palestinian population are also key for achieving a two-state solution.
What I have outlined are the building blocks for a positive agenda. I would like to ask this Council, and the parties, to consider them. Such an agenda would open much needed space for dialogue. Unilateral measures would close it. Let us work together and turn this situation around!